Only a few well-known foreign managers will be at the helm of the teams in the 2023 AFCON.
The year 2023 begins with two international competitions taking place almost simultaneously: the African Cup of Nations and the AFC Asian Cup. Naturally, the best players from the qualified teams in both tournaments will be called up, unless they are injured or simply overlooked by the managers.
The AFCON may have produced more equal and unpredictable results than the Asian Cup. The competition is also more intense than in Asia, as more top players from European major leagues come from Africa. However, there are fewer well-known foreign head coaches at the 2023 AFCON than at the 2023 Asian Cup. The latter has seven notable ones, four of whom are even continental-winning managers, with the most prominent being Roberto Mancini and Jürgen Klinsmann. Meanwhile, only a few of them are on the list for the former tournament.
At first glance, it appears to reflect a positive trend of relying on local players rather than foreign ones. Morocco, Tunisia, Cameroon, and the last two AFCON champions, Algeria and Senegal, are among those who are in favour of such. Here are the few remaining distinguished foreign managers who are currently leading the team in the 2023 AFCON.
Chris Hughton (Ghana)
He is one of the few black managers to have been in charge of the Premier League team in the past decade. Hughton is currently in charge of the Ghana, and the 2023 African Cup of Nations will be his first international tournament. The former Newcastle United, Brighton, and Nottingham Forest managers were named Ghana’s head coaches in February 2023, succeeding Otto Addo. He resigned after Jordan Ayew and Co. failed to make it through to the knockout stage of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
The former Republic of Ireland international has not won a single trophy at the top level of the club. He spent more time in the Championship during his managerial career, with promoting The Magpies and The Seagulls to the top flight being his most notable achievement in England.
Rui Vitória (Egypt)
The Portuguese gaffer is in command of Egypt in this year’s AFCON. He was appointed in summer 2022 after Mohamed Salah and co failed to secure a berth in the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The 53-year-old manager has delivered a number of trophies for his previous clubs.
He won the Portuguese Cup with Vitória Guimarães in 2013, clinched two league titles plus another Portuguese Cup with Benfica in 2016 and 2017, and lifted the Saudi Pro League trophy with Al-Nassr in 2019. The only club for which he was unable to win titles with was Spartak Moscow.
José Peseiro (Nigeria)
Peseiro is one of the most experienced managers on the international stage. He has been in charge of two other nations before in two different confederations: Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. However, he left no positive mark during his spells there. The former FC Porto, Panathinaikos, and Rapid Bucharest boss did not impress the fans during the 2010 and 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaigns.
Perhaps the highest achievement came in the 2004/05 season, when he led Sporting Lisbon to the UEFA Cup final. Unfortunately, they were defeated 3-1 by CSKA Moscow on their own home turf. In this year’s AFCON, he is expected to guide Nigeria to the latter stage, if not win it in the end. Peseiro has the luxury of having top players in his squad, including the likes of Victor Osimhen, AC Milan’s Samuel Chukwueze, and Atalanta’s Ademola Lookman.
Hugo Broos (South Africa)
The former Belgian international in the 1970s and 1980s is the only foreign manager in the 2023 AFCON who has lifted the trophy previously. He guided Cameroon to win their last title in the 2017 edition after thumping Mo Salah’s Egypt in the final. Broos is currently taking charge of South Africa, where he has been at the helm since 2022.
At the club level, the former Trabzonspor boss has won domestic titles with two Belgian powerhouses, Club Brugge and Anderlecht. He won two league titles and Belgian Cups with the former, as well as one league trophy with the latter. The former defender has also been named Belgian Manager of the Year four times.
Avram Grant (Zambia)
The forgotten Israeli boss is currently leading the 2012 Champions, Zambia, in this year’s AFCON, his third of his career. Grant led Ghana in the 2015 and 2017 editions, with fairly positive results. He led the Black Stars to the final in the former, only to lose on penalties to Ivory Coast, and finished fourth in the latter.
The 68-year-old gaffer has been in charge of three Premier League teams: West Ham United, Portsmouth, and Chelsea. Lady Luck never seems to smile at him when his team reaches the final. During his stints in England, Grant managed to lead Portsmouth to the FA Cup final in 2010 and Chelsea to the UEFA Champions League showpiece in 2008, respectively. Nonetheless, the results were the same: a disappointing defeat. It will be interesting to see if the ‘curse’ remains, assuming Zambia progresses to the summit.